Bat rescue: Kali the flying fox

Make sure you enlarge and turn the sound up on this video, which I purloined from Facebook. It’s the story of how an endangered fruit bat (“flying fox”) named Kali was rescued by keepers at the Oregon Zoo. As the video notes, Kali is a Rodrigues flying fox (Pteropus rodricensis), endemic to the 108 km² island of Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean.  It was critically endangered (and is still listed as such) because of habitat loss, hunting and bad weather, so in 1976 25 bats were collected for breeding. They’re now increasing in captivity and on the island, which has a population of 3,000—up from fewer than a hundred. It’s looking like a success story, but there’s a way to go.

It’s frugivorous, of course, and social, living in large colonies, like the one you see here in captivity.

For more information on this species, see the entry at ARKive.

This is a gorgeous animal, as all bats are. They’re so interesting and, except for the rabies issue, harmless to humans, so I don’t know why so many people shun them.

28 Comments

  1. grasshopper
    Posted March 31, 2018 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Just when you thought that Australia is an idyll, we learn that fruit bats here carry a rabies-like virus called lyssa virus.

    Lyssaviruses are a group of viruses that includes rabies and bat lyssavirus. Lyssavirus is carried by bats in Australia. Rabies is carried by mammals in many overseas countries. Both are spread by bites and scratches. These diseases can be prevented by rapid and thorough cleaning of the wound and by vaccination. There is no cure.

    That last sentence is a killer.

    Another disease fatal to humans and horses, that fruit bats carry, is Hendra virus. The human fatality rate is 60%.

    One winter I “rescued” a microbat I found in an almost motionless state on the floor of my shed. The wildlife rescue people told me that it was most likely just in a state of torpor. They also said that microbats carry the Lyssa virus, too.

    Wear gloves if you need to handle a bat for any reason.

    An interesting aside is that there is an on-going scientific argument that fruit-bats descend from primates.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_primate_hypothesis

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted March 31, 2018 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      “Bats are natural reservoir hosts and sources of infection of several microorganisms, many of which cause severe human diseases. Because of contact between bats and other animals, including humans, the possibility exists for additional interspecies transmissions and resulting disease outbreaks. The purpose of this article is to supply an overview on the main pathogens isolated from bats that have the potential to cause disease in humans.

      Go to:
      Facts
      – Bats are an important reservoirs of different pathogenic agents, and many of them have already caused disease outbreaks worldwide.
      – More than 200 viruses have been associated with bats, and almost all are RNA viruses probably owing to their great ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions through a higher genetic variability.
      – Bacteria in bats and their putative threat to humans remain poorly studied.”

      [ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4979447/ (2016)]

      “A new analysis of bed bugs from around Europe reveals that they came to humans from bats”

      [ http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150130-origin-of-bed-bugs-revealed
      ]

      Too like us, so very much shunable.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted March 31, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      BTW, “ongoing”? From your own reference:

      “More recently, the flying primate hypothesis was rejected when scientists compared the DNA of bats to that of primates. These genetic studies support the monophyly of bats.[4][5][6][7]”

      Genetics for the win!

      • grasshopper
        Posted March 31, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        From my own reference “Further studies did not find base-compositional bias sufficient to discount support for the monophyly of bats.[16]” <<<<<< I missed that. LOL

        Now, about humans being descendants of aquatic apes ……

  2. Heather Hastie
    Posted March 31, 2018 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    What a lovely story. I want a cuddle with Kali!

    Just about everything in Australia is poisonous or venomous or diseased – even the cricket players. I’m pretty sure the bats in NZ don’t have the issues in the above comments. I know they don’t have rabies. (There’s no rabies in NZ.)

    I think one of the main reasons people don’t like bats is superstition. It’s one of the animals that Dracula is supposed to be able to transform into, and it has associations with evil/hell/the Devil in art. Also, they mostly only come out at night, which traditionally associates them with bad stuff.

    • Laurance
      Posted March 31, 2018 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

      I love bats. And I, too, would love a cuddle with Kali, Heather.

      My Sweetie and I have the entire Dark Shadows TV show on DVDs. (I never saw Dark Shadows when it was on TV because I had a job and wasn’t home to watch TV. But I’m seeing it now.)

      We were watching Dark Shadows, and here came Barnabas Collins, all menacing and vampirish, and as Barnabas was approaching his victim, a little bat suddenly went flying around the room. How on earth did this little bat get into my house? Barnabas was biting his victim while the little bat went flying round and round. Our cat was going WTF?? A flying mouse??

      When the bat paused for a moments rest I popped a plastic cup over it and slid a stiff piece of cardboard underneath and took the little creature outside.

      A month or so later I was downstairs when my Sweetie called down to me to tell me that our cat had caught a mouse. I came upstairs to take care of business with the mouse, but, uh, “This isn’t a mouse…Cuddles has caught a bat.” She’d killed the bat, and I had the bat checked for rabies.

      No rabies, the bat was okay. I hadn’t thought to put on gloves and didn’t think till I’d already handled the bat. So I wanted to make sure.

      But how did these bats get into my house?

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted March 31, 2018 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        What a cool story and lovely experience! I’m quite envious!

        It was obviously a sign that vampires are real!!! Vlad has Risen! You were on his victims list as an evil atheist, but being kind to a bat has saved the lives of you and yours!

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted March 31, 2018 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

          I’m envious, too. I once had a very beautiful and mysterious interaction with a giant Egyptian fruit bat inside the Great Pyramid, where, thanks to my aquaintence with some Egyptologists, I was able to spend the night (just to trip, and half-hoping to become Bride of the Mummy, have a ‘mystical experience’ or something). In the wee hours, I was standing at the top of the Grand Staircase with an Egyptologist,when a huge bat flew rather languidly up the corridor. When it reached our location, it slowly circled us several times, growing closer with each gyre. I was absolutely enchanted. I had no idea what was going on, but it was beautiful, I felt there was some friendly communication (though that may have just been my imagination) and I wanted to see what would happen; but my companion waved it off, and it wheeled and flew just as languidly back down the corridor and out of sight. That was a mystical experience — not a transcendental mystical experience, but mystical as in mysterious and ineffable, even though the totality of the experience was aborted by the wave of my companion’s hand.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted March 31, 2018 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

            Wow! That must have been so cool! Jealousy now in overdrive! 😀

          • Posted April 1, 2018 at 3:16 am | Permalink

            It would have been Rousettus – the Egyptian Tomb Bat – the only megabat in that region, and it likes cool places to roost – like tombs. (Hence the French name for megabats – “Rousettes”) Bats of the genus Rousettus (they are found in Indonesia as well) are unusual in the Megabats – that they use a simple form of sonar – ‘clicking’ (as do some blind people and a number of birds) – no relation to the complex ultrasound echolocation used by microbats.
            But PLEASE don’t refer to Vampires, Dracula etc in relation to bats – it doesn’t help their public image! Sure there are vampire bats – central America (see if you can find the excellent ‘Creatures of the Night’ video – Nat Geographic.

            • Jenny Haniver
              Posted April 1, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

              Thank you so much for this. I’d never heard of Egyptian tomb bats before. I’d looked up Egyptian bats to try to identify it, but somehow, I missed this one, and so thought it must have been a fruit bat.

              One thing I was always curious about is that the only ancient Egyptian mythological reference I could find to bats was some meager reference in one of Budge’s books about a prehistoric bat deity. This has long puzzled me because I’d have thought that bats, and especially these tomb bats (now that I know about them), would have been prime subjects to be deified and possess a full-fledged mythological biography and history; but no.

        • Laurance
          Posted April 1, 2018 at 8:51 am | Permalink

          Hello, Heather, and oh yes, vampires are real. 😉 My Sweetie (now a sick old man in our local nursing home) has/had a real fascination with Barnabas Collins. I went to a lot of trouble online to find a Barnabas Collins cane and a coat with the cape over the shoulders. The coat is a costume, not a real high-quality coat, but the cane is a genuine usable cane, not a cheap imitation.

          This old guy is an old stoner, an old pothead, and he likes to be Cannabis Collins, Barnabas’ evil twin. So as far as I’m concerned, I have a real vampire in my life.

          In other news, I used to live in an old farmhouse several miles south of Ithaca NY. I didn’t have screens in my windows, and I’d leave them open in the summer. So I got all kids of bugs and what-not. A couple of times I got bats. The pussy cat was bewildered by flying mice, but I wasn’t worried. I knew that the bats would be able to find their way out with their echolocation. By morning they were gone. I wasn’t afraid of them. I wasn’t bothering them, and they didn’t bother me.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted April 1, 2018 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

            What a thoughtful gift for your Sweetie – sounds like you’re an ideal partner!

            If the insects are coming in, it’s probably ideal to have a couple of bats coming in too. That video said they can eat up to a thousand insects and hour, so they would have sorted out the ones that came into your house real quick!

            I like to have all the doors and windows open at night in the summer, and I don’t have screens either, though I wish I did. I have net curtains to stop the flying insects, but the crawling ones still come in, I’d love a bat or two to get them for me!

            A boyfriend worked in the Pacific Islands for a couple of years and he used to have various lizards coming into the house after insects. They never stayed, and the house was always free of insects. (He had screens on the windows, but they used to get in through the doors.)

  3. nicky
    Posted March 31, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    It is reputed that in the Dayak fruitbat the males suckle too. Some other species have assisting ‘nannies’ too. Could this -if male sucking and assisting is a thing in the Rodriguez fruitbat too- have something to do with the mother’s rejection? Admittedly not very likely, but not impossible either.
    I note that the care taker talks about 2000 insects eaten a night, that must be referring to microchiroptera, not flying foxes, I guess. Apparently fruit bats are indispensable seed dispensers and pollinators in their forests.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted March 31, 2018 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

      I’d not known about male lactation (as opposed to galactorrhea). Fascinating. So many wonders in nature. Might be nice if human males participated so intimately in child-rearing.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted March 31, 2018 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

        Actually, everything in nature is a wonder, which, of course, is one reason why our species is given to attributing a First Cause to explain the wonder/s of existence, and then judge everything else by our standards of normality.

      • nicky
        Posted April 1, 2018 at 2:47 am | Permalink

        I wonder if suckling males and ‘nannies’ have anything to do with powered flight. In birds both parents and sometimes older siblings also help rearing the young.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted April 1, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

          That’s an interesting train of thought. But then I think of penguins!

  4. Posted March 31, 2018 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    As someone who has reared hundreds of flying foxes – this was so familiar.. even to the baby latched onto the feeding teat! – They are probably one of the easiest animals to raise – as they are lactose tolerant. However I notice that the “rabies-lyssa” demon keeps getting raised .. or that bats (of either group) are seen as reservoirs of hideous viruses that will decimate the human population. The reality is rather the reverse – WE are decimating the megabat population rather effectively (and the microbat one too)- they are good to eat (Vanatu, Solomons etc), they compete with us for orchard produce (pick anywhere in the Asian – African – Australian pacific area).. and the big pteropids congregate in large numbers (‘camps’) which are noisy (as they are very vocal animals) and smelly (pee, shit and male marking odour). Also, they tend to like to live where we live. Rabies and lyssa – that became a major boogey-man when it was discovered. In Australia – there have been 2 confirmed Lyssa deaths from flying foxes, both, I’m given to believe, involving immune compromised people. Prior to that, despite many years exposure to flying foxes- lots of people rearing babies, no cases reported. However – despite reality – Health Depts continue to flag lyssa as a major health threat – and for those exhibiting flying foxes – are expected to almost be ‘space suited’! We do love to be scared – lyssa-rabies-Dracula-Vampires…. Oh – and these amazing animals main role seems to be pollination – pollen carried for many miles on their muzzles. They can’t swallow solids – they are juicers – but some tiny seeds make it through – mostly they can carry big fruit significant distances, eat it and drop the seed (think mango).
    They make very affectionate pets, and are very smart .. oh, by the way, I’m a confirmed di-phyletist.. they are VERY different to microbats – even the frugivorous Phyllostomidae of central America. Flight has evolved numerous times.

    • nicky
      Posted April 1, 2018 at 3:05 am | Permalink

      I fully agree with the rabies part, one is infinitely more likely to get rabies from a stray dog than from a bat (either micro- or macro-). I guess the same goes for most other lyssavirus. Maybe bats are singled out as vectors, since they (as single individuals or single groups) range over wide areas?

      The genetics do not appear to support your idea of ‘di-philetism’, in that macro- and micro-bats appear a monophyletic group, more closely related to each other than to other mammals (such as primates or colugos). Powered flight apparently only arose once in mammals. They do appear, however, to be both monophyletic groups in their own right (microbats are closer related to each other than to any macrobat, and vice versa).

      I’m kinda jealous of you having reared hundreds of flying foxes. What a delight that must have been. They are absolutely fantastic animals!

      • Posted April 1, 2018 at 3:39 am | Permalink

        Hi Nicky.
        Mono vs Diphyly is where things get VERY messy – guns drawn at noon and all that.. I’ve been watching the ‘BAT WARS’ for over 30 years now – and the intensity of the battles can be quite alarming. Unfortunately genetics is currently considered to be the final arbiter – however, if you look at the various genetic cladistic analyses – megas are always outliers to micros. Always. What DOESN’T get taken into account is anatomy and physiology. The brain structure of megas (Pteropus) is almost identical to that of lemurs. Megas have some odd autonomic aspects – cholinergic piloerection rather than nor-adrenergic, which only the primate line has.. there is actually quite a well researched list of congruences with proto-primates – look up Pettigrew. Sadly he was the subject of some pretty nasty and intense attacks in the 90’s by the US microbat community .. I do wonder if some of the venom came from jealousy – Megas are not found in the New World! Scientists are human
        too. Oh – don’t forget, it seems that Megas haven’t been around for that long .. probably only 5 or so million years (will find the reference).

        • nicky
          Posted April 1, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

          I was aware of the resemblance of the optic pathways of the Macro’s and primates (my field, after all), mainly the lack of crossing to the midbrain tectum, the very reason macro’s were proposed to be associated with primates and colugos in the first place. I was not aware of the cholinergic rather than nor-adrenercic pilo-erection. Both acetylcholine and norepinephrine are neurotransmittors of the autonomic nerve system.
          I fear that ‘genetics’ is not just ‘currently’ the final arbiter, I think it just is, without the ‘currently’. I may find that ‘unfortunate’ in this particular case, but let us be clear, it is fortunate to have genetics to rely upon. (although admittedly one never knows for sure, new insights and all that). I would have loved -for some unfathomable reasons I do not understand myself- to have the macro’s being more closely related to primates and colugo’s than to micro’s. Alas, it appears not to be so.
          Even if we would disregard genetics, what is more likely, convergeance of the loss of some neuronal wiring and differences in autonomis neurotransmitor, or convergeance of powered flight?
          I do not dispute at all that macros are always the outliers to micro’s, they indeed appear -as said- both to be monophyletic in their own right, so that is to be kind of expected.

          • Posted April 1, 2018 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

            Hi Nicky
            Thanks for the response – article on pteropid phylogeny is ‘Almeida et al 2014 Pteropus phylogeny’. I notice Nancy Simmons is a co-author (she led the charge against di-phyly in the past) – however for a restricted group like the megas – I’m sure genetics is the best approach to sorting out their inter-relationships. I get dubious about the results when there is a big temporal gap. Shifting from adrenergic to cholinergic in the sympathetic is quite a change – the preganglionic neurones have to displace the adrenergic post ganglionic ones .. now what could be the evolutionary advantage there? I think in the case of flight evolution – it’s a lack of imagination by taxonomists – who usually know no physics.
            We currently have 4 captive (unreleasable) P conspicillatus here – education animals – and they definitely show very complex and primate like behaviour – way different to micros that I have met!
            However, the main thing is that we should be putting our efforts into ensuring that we don’t loose these animals as a result of our depredations on the planet…

      • Posted April 1, 2018 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        I disagree about rabies: stray dogs are vaccinated, while bats are not. Not that I love stray dogs. The fact that many humans thinks that we must navigate our way between these large predators drives me to sad thoughts about our species.

        • nicky
          Posted April 1, 2018 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

          The non-stray dogs here in SA are mostly vaccinated, the stray dogs generally are not. It is an essential part of their being stray, as it were, kinda half feral. 🙂

          • Posted April 1, 2018 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

            Oh, this doesn’t sound well indeed!

            • nicky
              Posted April 1, 2018 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

              We do have sporadic cases of rabies, always by ‘stray dogs’, never by bats (AFAIK). I think most veterinarians are vaccinated anyway.

  5. Posted March 31, 2018 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    I love the little guys. I follow 3 different foxes care giverers. The caregivers of Australia flying foxes are great. Baby season, think it’s about August to February, is the busiest. You Might want to check them out. They made their own bottle nipples and binkies for the pups. But I think it’s great that you have a breeding program to help restore populations


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